It’s January 5, and you’ve already goofed your Bible reading plan for 2018. You’re behind.
This was the year, too! You were going to do it! You were going to become the Bible studier that all other church-going folk envy. Perhaps not. Mayhap you were going to finally read the whole thing and get the guilt off of your back that you’ve never read 1 and 2 Chronicles. Or that you’ve not the foggiest idea what to do with Nahum. Or Jude.
Jude is close to Revelations. Ahem, Revelation. Have you even read all of that?
Maybe, just maybe, you can catch up. I mean, if you double up on those readings, it’s sure to work. Just read one in the morning AND one at night. It’ll be great. Perfect even.
OK, now throw all of that thinking out. It isn’t helpful. Go make a cup of coffee. Or tea. Don’t get a Coke because it's too cold to drink anything out of the refrigerator, and you said you were working on cutting your sugar or calories or some such thing. Clear your head. Fine, get the Coke, but I’m telling you, you’re only going to wind up colder. I get it, you’re from Up North™, and you were literally born in a snow drift and learned how to add and subtract by scratching numbers into a frozen river with a stick you sharpened with an icicle.
Where were we?
You read all the articles on reading the Bible in 2018, and you were going to do it. But there was a plot twist and you already messed up. You’re already behind, and you’re discouraged. You’re disappointed in yourself.
I get feeling like this because it was me every year from the time I became a believer in Christ at 16 until I was out of college. I heard other people talk about doing it, and I felt like I should have read the whole Bible.
I wasn’t wrong.
The Bible is God’s revelation. It’s him telling us about himself. It’s important. After all, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 does say: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
The emphasis is added to the NASB translation of the Greek by yours truly.
It would indeed do us well to have read the whole Bible and to do so more than once.
How else do we find the precious words of God to sustain us in the worst of times? How else are we supposed to understand the authoritative perspective of God on the world we inhabit? How else would we know the story of God saving his people for himself?
But it need not be a burden. It is a privilege to have the Scriptures in a language we can read and to possess copies for our very own. Many Christians throughout history could only dream of such a thing. Don’t let that be a weight to carry. Let it be a stimulus to excite you.
If you want to do a plan, if that works for you, that’s great. Maybe you really will be that person who reads morning and night, and you’ll catch up. However, I’d bet that’s not you because it’s not really most people.
Instead, be real with yourself and with God. Stop spending so much time trying to find the right plan and pray that God would bless your effort with success. Pray that he would give you understanding of what you read.
Notice that I said pray for understanding, not comprehensive knowledge. That would be great, but you’re not going to get it by reading the whole Bible in one year. It’s a big book. It’s a challenging book.
What’s more important than any plan for reading the Bible is that you actually read it. If a plan is helpful, then go for it. If you want to start in Genesis and go cover to cover, do that. I actually think there’s a lot of merit in that approach. If you’d rather start in the Gospels and do the New Testament first, that’s OK too. There’s no strategy that’s more important than actually doing it.
I’ll discuss more practicalities below, but before we go further down that road, let’s have a serious talk about this: you need to read Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. You need to read 1 and 2 Chronicles, including all the genealogical material in 1 Chronicles 1-9. Prepare yourself in prayer; have a humble spirit when it comes to these sections. It’s not as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t know that these are sections of Scripture that people do not usually find immediately beneficial. Do you not think it would be an act of faith to submit to God in belief that even these portions may edify you in some way at some time? We should not grouse about reading these parts of Scripture, but nor should we think that they are a passage like Romans 8 or Psalm 23. Perhaps God is telling us something different (not contradictory, mind you!) in these other texts we find so hard to approach.
As far as practicalities go, there are three that I would mention.
First, think about getting yourself an audio Bible. I use this one. At $20, it’s a steal. It’s just a couple of MP3 CDs that I put into my iTunes on my computer and then put on my smartphone. I’ve listened to it while out walking or doing chores around the house. Is it the same as poring over a 10 verse section for an hour? No, and it’s not supposed to be. Instead, it has often helped me see the bigger picture of what the author was doing when he wrote his part of Scripture. Another time, I will write advocating reading and even preaching and teaching large texts of Scripture at one time. I would stick with whatever translation is your preferred one for reading, for this provides several advantages. For one, you can follow along in your Bible as you listen. There’s a reason your teacher used to have someone read to the class from your textbook as the rest of the class followed along. Our minds remember things better when we do this. I don’t do this as much as I’d like, but I’ve never regretted doing it when I have made time. If you have the same version as you usually use, you’re putting the exact same wording in your ears as you do your eyes. You’re likely to slowly memorize some texts just by hearing them the same way every time. If you’re an ESV user, this seems to be a good one.
The next practicality to mention is that if you’re reading a lot of the Bible at once and moving through it at a fairly quick pace (as you will if you’re going to read such a thing over the course of 365 or fewer days), you’re not going to be able to meditate on passages as easily. You’ve got to keep reading. Find a passage that you desire to memorize and work on committing that to memory. You might select a passage that has been significant for you at some point in your life. If one doesn’t stick out, I recommend something like Colossians 1:15-12, Philippians 2:5-11, Romans 8:1-17, or John 1:1-18. You meditate on one of those for a year, and you’re going to love Jesus more. If you’re feeling dangerous, then do 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and Luke 1:46-55 together. I’ll let you discern why those are great to dwell on in conjunction with one another. As you move through the whole Bible, mark down other passages you might want to meditate on for the future.
Finally, find a way to make notes and questions you can reference later. You’re going to come across some things that are going to throw you if you’re reading and not skimming (also a future thing I will discuss). Use these to further your own interest in understanding the Bible better in the future! I doubt sincerely that if you emailed a question you have about the Bible to one of your pastors that he’s going to be miffed that he must respond. Cultivating your own curiosities about Scripture seems a lot like hungering and thirsting for righteousness to me.
If you gather nothing else from this post, take this away: do not get discouraged or quit in your effort to read all of the Bible. You know who wants you to quit? The devil, that’s who. If you’re making him hopping mad, you’re probably pleasing the one who came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. If you haven’t finished by December 31, 2018 or if you get off track, don’t quit. Keep going. Bathe your mind in God’s revelation of himself to mankind. Every day won’t feel like your own private sunbeam landed gently on you to warm your heart. That’s OK—a decent portion of the New Testament was written in a dungeon or jail cell. Every time you push yourself to read it, you’re making a deposit into your mind of something the Holy Spirit has said. Like the jar of change on your dresser, it may take a while to fill, but no one has ever lamented a change jar that has reached capacity. Nor will you regret putting the words of God into your mind.